The Veterans Hike Across Maryland, a series of 5 hikes totaling 41 miles on the Appalachian Trail, is the inaugural program of the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group’s Veterans Hiking for Health initiative. Our purpose in leading these hikes, which are free to veterans who have registered and agreed to complete a short survey, is to introduce veterans to the physical and mental benefits of hiking in a wilderness setting. Hikes will be led by trained, volunteer hike leaders from the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group, in small groups of approximately 15 to 20 hikers per hike leader.
While anyone can suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, and other health issues, the experiences faced by many veterans may make them more susceptible. Handling these issues is an important step for improving their wellbeing. While there are many activities that can alleviate stress, we believe that spending time outdoors in a wilderness setting can be especially therapeutic.
Thus, the Veterans Hiking for Health initiative is about improving the lives of veterans and providing evidence to support what we already believe to be true. To that end MAHG has partnered with Vet Arts Connect, an initiative of the Institute for Integrative Health to participate in their pilot research study which seeks to gather data concerning the impact these activities have on our veterans' overall health and well-being.
Participants will take a short survey before, after, and six months later as part of a research study that seeks to answer the question “Does spending time in a wilderness setting help to alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, improve energy, or improve one’s sense of self-worth?” We believe the answer will be a resounding yes, and we are confident that all who join us will see their lives made greater and more fulfilling!